Unveiling of Rovers legend Paddy Moore’s headstone in Glasnevin

Paddy Moore was one of the greatest players to ever play for Shamrock Rovers. Last Saturday a headstone, which was part funded by the Shamrock Rovers Heritage Trust and Rovers fans, was unveiled at his grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. We look back at the life and career of a much loved legend who many say was Ireland’s first superstar footballer.

In the summer of 1928 Shamrock Rovers signed a little 19 year old lad from Ballybough called Paddy Moore, a wonderfully skilful inside right who made the switch from Richmond Rovers after shining as the brightest star in the Dublin youth football scene for the previous three years.

Paddy Moore would play for Rovers during four different spells spanning almost the entire 1930’s. Converted into a centre forward he would become the first player ever to score four goals in a World Cup match in 1934, win every honour in Irish club football, score the winning goal in the 1931 FAI Cup final and represent his country 9 times. He also played in England, Wales and Scotland becoming a legend at Aberdeen where he equalled the club record for scoring a double hat trick in 1932.

Had he been born 80 years later he would undoubtedly have been a multi millionaire and a back page tabloid star. He would also probably be making the front pages because along with his spellbinding talent he was a larger than life cult hero who was much loved by the public and a man who struggled with an alcohol addiction that would tragically claim his life at the age of 41. He has been described as second only to George Best as the greatest ever Irish footballer. Both men’s lives would have sad overlaps.

His first spell with Rovers was short. After The Hoops beat Bohs to his signature they decided to convert him into a striker. It was an inspired switch and he didn’t have to wait long to win his first bit of silverware as his goals helped the club win the Free State Shield. His stunning performances had alerted many cross channel clubs and that summer he signed for Cardiff City along with another Paddy Moore who came from Mullingar Celtic! Neither man got a chance to shine and after a frustrating season in the Welsh capital Paddy moved to Merthyr Town where he only played 5 games before moving to Tranmere Rovers. His stint on Merseyside didn’t last too long either and by the end of the summer of 1930 he was back at Rovers.

The next couple of seasons would be very productive for both him and the club as they won the league and cup double in 1932. Once again he came on the radar of the leading British clubs and it was Aberdeen who won the race for the much coveted Dubliner. He was signed as a direct replacement for Benny Yorston, the man who to this day is still Aberdeen’s record goal scorer with his haul of 38 goals in the 1929-30 season. Yorston, along with five other players, had been let go by the club after a betting scandal known as “The Great Mystery.”

By this stage he was also playing for his country after making his debut, and scoring, for the “Free State” in a 1-1 draw against Spain in 1931. A year later he became one of the few players to play for both Ireland and Northern Ireland when he was picked on a combined team to play England in Blackpool. An article from the Irish Independent dated October 11th 1932, five days before the game, raves about Moore’s ability and how he was one of “only four Free State born men in the team.” The article goes on to say; “It was fairly obvious Paddy Moore’s consistently good displays for Aberdeen would attract attention. Football critics in Scotland are going into ecstasies describing Paddy Moore’s play. One writer starts off “Be thankful gentlemen for the entry of one Patrick Moore, an Irishman by birth, an Aberdeen player by choice and a football personality by nature,” read the piece.

Two years later came the monumental clash with Belgium in Dalymount when he became the first player ever to score four goals in a World Cup match. The game was Ireland’s first ever World Cup Qualifier and the headline in the Irish Press the day after read; “PADDY MOORE SHARES THE HONOURS WITH BELGIUM.” The report say’s that “only Paddy Moore could have scored four goals, each of them was a masterstroke of precision and timing. The game was in the nature of a personal triumph for him.”

Following this wonderful feat he was propelled to almost God like status in his home town. Exiled in Scotland, his time at Aberdeen was successful, in his three seasons at Pittodrie he scored an impressive 47 goals in 74 games. While at Pittodrie however it appeared he suffered terribly from homesickness.

From scanning old newspaper reports from the 1930’s a picture emerges of a larger than life character who played from the heart. In an interview he did with The Irish Press dated 11 January 1935, when he was playing for Aberdeen, he talks of how much he loved and missed his home town. “I’d be much happier if I was back playing in Dublin,” he says to the correspondent known only by the name “Socaro.” It appears he had still not made it back to his club after an international versus Hungary in Dublin on 16th December, almost four weeks earlier! “Nothing would suit me better than to resume playing in the Free State,” he said. “I put on weight very rapidly whenever I’m in Aberdeen, I feel a new man in Dublin and I find life at home much better for me.” He rejoined The Hoops within weeks of giving this interview.

During his last two spells at Rovers he was battling alcoholism but he still managed to help the club win trophies and produce some memorable moments on the pitch. Ultimately his career wound down in 1942 and following a short stint as manager at Stella Maris he emigrated to England where he tragically died in 1951. In researching this article I was lucky enough to speak with Paddy’s only son Pat. Here’s what he told us.

“I have lovely memories of my Dad from when he used to take us out on the street to play football and when he used to take me to Miltown. I was 6 when he died in 1951 so the trips to watch Rovers play would have been in the late 40’s to very early 50’s. He absolutely loved Rovers big time, he was always talking about them even though by that stage it had been over ten years since he’d played for them. They were his team here and he regularly went to watch them play whenever he could. When he’d get to the turnstile he’d just say “Paddy Moore” and we’d be ushered in for free! I remember well being at a game against Drums in 1950, that used to be a very big fixture, there was big rivalry between the two clubs then. I remember a lot about that game, I remember Benny Henderson, who was a big player for them, played because he had an almighty kick on him!”

“Everyone loved my Dad, he was a great character, a bit of a rebel and a brilliant footballer. When I tell people that my Dad was the first person to score four goals in a World Cup match they don’t believe me, they think I’m making it up! But he was and that achievement can never be beaten, I’m proud of him and what he accomplished in what was quite a short career really by today’s standards. A bit of his talent must have rubbed off on me because I played as a centre forward myself up to semi professional level. He must have taught me something because I was always a good goal scorer. I still really love football and I’ve been a Wolves fan ever since I listened to their famous match against Moscow Dynamo on our radio in Cabra in 1955!”